Last-ditch bid to stop funding cuts to homeless charities

The Lyndhurst Road site in Worthing has been used by Turning Tides for temporary accommodation but the charity is one of many across West Sussex which faces having its funding cut by the county council
The Lyndhurst Road site in Worthing has been used by Turning Tides for temporary accommodation but the charity is one of many across West Sussex which faces having its funding cut by the county council

A last-ditch bid to stop West Sussex homeless charities having their funding cut has been launched by the Lib Dems.

In December, West Sussex County Council announced a reduction in its housing-related support budget from £6.3million to £4.6million in 2019/20 and then to £2.3million in 2020/21.

This will see charities such as Turning Tides, formerly Worthing Churches Homeless Projects, Stonepillow and YMCA Downslink Group lose out.

A total of £750,000 has been allocated by the council to help organisations these transition to the new arrangements.

The cuts are included in the Conservative administration’s budget, which is due to be discussed on Friday.

The Lib Dems will attempt to amend the budget to reverse cuts to bus subsidies, public health and the homeless support grant.

On the housing support budget, James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group at County Hall, said: “We will fund fully for a further year this vital service for those in dire need of support.

“Likewise, bus services are vital for young people getting to college, getting to work and a necessity for many elderly to reach shops, doctors, etc.

“We are determined to ensure these vital services are preserved in both rural and urban areas.

“Finally, public health cuts mean less prevention, less early diagnosis, more costs and worse outcomes for many thousands of patients. Prevention is always better, and cheaper, than late curing, and must not be further cut.

“We have had our costings and budget checked by officers, who are happy that they are achievable, and we hope that they will be agreed on Friday .”

The Tory budget proposes a 4.99 per cent council tax rise, which would add more than £65 a year on to a Band D property’s bill. Budget plans also include an extra £6.1million new investment in children and young people’s services, an extra £7.3million investment in adults and health, a further £44.5million for sustainable energy programmes, a £5million programme to create community hubs, £13.8million investment in corporate and fire fleet vehicles, and £22.5million towards digital infrastructure.

Louise Goldsmith, leader of the county council, said: “Over the years we have delivered significant savings so we’re used to working in a challenging financial situation. We are still delivering key services to our residents and supporting those in need, and fulfilling our statutory obligations under our West Sussex plan.

“It’s not all bleak – through our capital programme we are investing in our communities across the county.

“When we need to, we are also investing to save and we are investing to generate much-needed income.”

During a Parliamentary debate on rough sleeping last week, East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton highlighted the work of Turning Tides. He argued the problem of rough sleeping is not just about resources and bricks-and-mortar accommodation, with the Lyndhurst Road temporary accommodation project in Worthing demonstrating ‘some real thinking outside the box’.

It was modelled to be accessible to clients who had not managed the requirements of the charity’s more structured supported housing schemes and offered wrap-around support from the multi-disciplinary team.

Mr Loughton said: “We need such imaginative projects, and imaginative and forward-thinking people working in partnership to come up with solutions. Those solutions exist. We have not solved the problem in Worthing, but we have greatly alleviated it.”

However, he went on to describe how the cuts in homeless support ‘will certainly impact on the project’ and felt it would be a ‘great shame to see such good work go into reverse’.